Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What Do You Want?

When you're stuck in a therapy session, unsure of what to talk about, you can always fall back on two questions: "what do I want?" and "how do I feel?" These usually provide plenty of discussion material, primarily because they're so difficult to answer. Let's start with "what do I want?"

It's challenging to answer because 1. people tend to be out of touch with themselves, and 2. different parts of us want different things.

Most of the time, we're out of touch with our wants, our feelings, even our needs. We get so wrapped up in the details of our day that we ignore our need for connection and rest, eat when we're not hungry, work a job we don't enjoy, pass by the gym, the church and the park, and fail to nurture our most important relationships. We ignore these wants and needs because we're beholden to our To Do lists and cell phones. Or maybe it's others we're beholden to. I know many people who are intensely aware of the wants, feelings, and needs of those around them, but oblivious to their own. For people in this category, answering "what do I want?" means putting aside lists, details, obligations and masks in order to reacquaint with ones self. It might take practice, and therapy is a good place to practice.

Others experience a conflict of wants. You want the chocolate cake but you also want to lose weight. You want a job that pays more money, but you'd also like to work less. You'd like to work on your relationship, but you also want to avoid arguments. These conflicting wants come from different parts of yourself. The demon on one shoulder says eat the cake, the angel on the other says hit the gym, for example. We all have different parts that want different things, the challenge is determining which ones we'll listen to, or if we'll compromise. Some people are able to develop a competent system for resolving these internal conflicts, sort of like having a moderator inside to determine a winner or strike a deal. Again, great material for a therapy session.

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